Sunday, February 8, 2009

To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme?

I've been so engrossed in my new picture book manuscript, 3 Karate Pigs, that I haven't had time to blog, or comment so much on other blogs. (Sorry to all my blogging friends!)

I got a full draft done myself and then turned to Becky Sat. morning for help with the meter and rhyme. "I have to say this..." she typed into AOL messenger. Uh-oh. I knew what was coming. "Perhaps the story shouldn't be in rhyme?"

This is a common debate for us. I always want to write in rhyme, or partial rhyme. She often prefers drafting a story in prose.

It's not that I have anything against prose. I love lots of non-rhyming picture book such as Knuffle Bunny, That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown and Scaredy Squirrel.

But my inclination is to write in rhyme. Rhyme can make a thin plot sparkle and shine. Could Bear Snores On have worked in prose? My guess is "no." The story is too slight. It's the fabulous language and perfect rhythm that makes this book such a winner!

An itty-bitty mouse
pitter-pat, tip-toe
creep-crawls through the cave
from the fluff cold snow.

Mouse squeaks, "Too damp,
too dank, too dark."
So he lights wee twigs
with a small, hot spark

The coals pip-pop and the wind doesn't stop.

But the bear snores on.

On the con side, people say it is harder to sell a rhyming manuscript.

But I see many more arguments for the pro-rhyme position:

1) Rhyme could differentiate us. There must be hundreds of fractured Pigs manuscripts in the slush. Why should an editor pick ours?

2) Rhyme is way more fun to write. It is like a complex puzzle and I find it very challenging to make the pieces fit just right.

3) Rhyming stories are great for developing literacy skills. Rhyme helps kids predict what is coming to they can chime in, and it helps emerging reader decipher words.

To rhyme or not to rhyme, that is the question?


Anonymous said...

Well, you know I don't rhyme. So take this with a grain of salt.

I think it's more liberating to draft the story in prose, so the rhyme doesn't force you into a pickle of a plot. Once you have the story firmed up, then you can go back to create the rhyme and meter--and have a lot more fun with it since you are confident in the direction of the tale.

I agree that rhyme is playful and interesting to young ears. Although my daughter recently had a thing AGAINST rhyming books. Although she LOVES Dr. Suess! We just read "If I Ran the Zoo" last night. But other rhyming titles have left her...well...holding her ears. Sometimes it can be too sing-songy and annoying to her. My statistic of one.

Hardygirl said...

I absolutely love rhyming books.

I think most editors are against them because they get so many BAD rhyming books (I think every granny in an appliqued sweater vest thinks she can write a preciously sappy rhyming children's book). I say go with it, if that's what moves you and feels right.


Student blogger said...

As a librarian it is always challenging and fun to teach fluency to young students using rhyming keep rhyming. I agree with your comment that it is like a "complex puzzle", fitting unique pieces together. Keeping rhyming!!!

Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

I love rhyming books, particularly anything by Julia Donaldson.

I have read some bad rhyming books that really don't flow properly - I can't think of any off hand though!

Corey Schwartz said...

Thanks Everybody!

Laura, i am a huge Julia Donaldson fan! She is not that big over here, but I think The Gruffalo is brilliant! And I often read The Spiffiest Giant in Town when I do school visits because it has a similar theme to Hop! Plop!

Casey Something said...

I love rhyming books, but the advice in the first post seems good, too.

Go with whatever works for you Corey!

Kasie West said...

My kids love it when the books rhyme. I however hate it, only because then it helps them to memorize it and they walk around the house annoying me all day.

"I do not like burritos, I do like them mom I am."

See, annoying. I tell them if they are going to rank on my dinner and slaughter dr. seuss all at the same time then they can leave the dinner table.

Corey Schwartz said...

Ha! Kasey, that's so funny, I think it deserves ad entire post of its own!

Katie Anderson said...

I'm actually glad you're a rhymer. I hate it when they say at big conferences like LA NOT to rhyme.

Rhyming is more fun. I have a PB that I have been working on for years on the side, and it just needs to be a rhymer. It just does!

And it IS like a puzzle. I am missing some puzzle pieces which is why it's sitting over there on the shelf. But one day I'll finish it :-)

Good luck with yours!

Corey Schwartz said...

Thanks, Katie. The last agent I subbed to wrote "I see the Seuss influence" which I took as a HUGE compliment :)

Lindsay said...

I LOVE the Gruffalo and I also think the rhyming in Hop Plop is masterfully done. The rhymes are part of what my kids like about that book because they were well done.

BookChook said...

I know some publishers/editors are supposedly anti-rhyme simply because they see plenty of ms with rhyme poorly done.

But as a Kindergarten teacher, I wrote all my plays in rhyme because the kids could memorize the whole thing easily. Then, when the main Pig got chicken pox on the eve of The Play, everyone knew all the parts and it was easy to find an understudy to step in. Not to mention a stage full of prompts if by chance anyone did forget a line!

I think sometimes we get a bit too precious about rhyme. Kids love it, adults love it, should be more of it.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I draft a picture book in rhyme just to get the story out. That's the way my brain works, I guess. Then, if the rhyme just isn't working, or it's just too cheesy, I switch it to prose, but I almost always write it in rhyme first. It sounds like you're the same way. RHYMERS RULE.

Rebecca Gomez said...

A story should be told in rhyme only if IT (not the author) demands it.

I could almost say that I love rhyme more than anyone. Love writing it, love reading it, love quoting it. But I also love a story that wins me over with it's fun, poetic language without rhyming. A story doesn't have to rhyme to have fun language. It doesn't have to rhyme to stand out.

Rhyme alone will not salvage a slight story. Sometimes, rhyme can be too restrictive (e.g. "Oh, I would love to say this but it doesn't fit the meter"). As a general rule, I only write a story in rhyme if it moves that way naturally, without me forcing it.